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September 15, 2011

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William Leiter (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – Legislation that would streamline regulatory and environmental reviews for infill development and renewable energy projects passed the Legislature on a bipartisan vote last week and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown for approval.

Senate Bill 226, by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), would streamline the California Environmental Quality Act compliance process in ways intended to assist business expansion and help create immediate jobs.  The bill also maintains important environmental safeguards while balancing business and government interests.

“California has the second highest unemployment rate of any state,” said Simitian. “This bill will help business get worthwhile projects off the ground quicker and help create much needed job opportunities.”

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a statute passed in 1970 that requires state and local agencies in California to follow a protocol of analysis and public disclosure of the environmental impacts of proposed projects, and adopt all feasible measures to mitigate those impacts.

Senate Bill 226 streamlines the CEQA process for so-called “urban infill” projects that meet specified requirements. “The goal,” said Simitian, “is to avoid duplicative review that is costly both in terms of time and money, while retaining rigorous environmental review for projects, or project elements, that raise genuinely new issues.” 

“This has the immediate effect of expediting new urban housing and mixed-use projects in the Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco Bay Area regions, as well as some smaller communities,” Simitian noted. “It will help create new, high-wage construction jobs and affordable housing in major urban areas.”

Senate Bill 226 would also make solar projects on rooftops of buildings or in certain parking lots eligible for a so-called statutory exemption granted by the Legislature.
“This provision provides a dual incentive – one to the owner of a building, the other to a solar developer – to build and use clean solar energy,” said Simitian. “They create immediate jobs in the form of construction and installation of solar projects and reduce delays on projects that are built within existing footprints.”

Two other facets of the bill are designed to help businesses cut through red tape and delays to get projects underway sooner.  If a project already has an exemption to the CEQA process, SB 226 would prohibit the project’s greenhouse gas emissions from automatically removing that exemption. The project must still meet state emission standards, but it means that an Environmental Impact Report doesn’t have to be done, thereby saving time and money. The bill also allows public agencies to hold two initial mandated hearings on projects at the same time, rather than consecutively; once again reducing delays.

Simitian said he has “had some pushback” about his efforts to streamline the CEQA process, but noted that “a streamlined process is a win-win situation. Protecting the environment and promoting economic development are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both.” Simitian added that he chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, is a Life Member of the Sierra Club, and has a 99 percent lifetime scorecard with the California League of Conservation Voters.

The bill is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

For more information on Simitian’s CEQA streamlining legislation, visit